Hi there everyone, this is Tom from the Learn Grow Succeed Podcast.
It was American President Harry S Truman who said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
The reality is that some leaders reach a sort of plateau in their professional lives; they begin to think they know it all, they’ve heard it all, and there’s nothing new to learn. Something we see with clients all too often, they want to invest in their teams development but often forget themselves.
Now, they may be busy – aren’t we all? – but learning is a lifelong commitment.
Nothing stands still, and so continually regrouping and rebooting your knowledge is critical if you’re going to be a truly successful leader.
And that’s what today‘s podcast is all about.
First, though, if you are new here… welcome!
By the way, you’ll always find a transcription of our podcast over on the Excel Communications website.
Which is also full of resources to help you develop your leadership capability.
Over the last few years we’ve run many leadership training webinars and if you would like access to these please visit https://www.excel-communications.com/wr
So, here we go.
So, lifelong learning – and what happens to leaders who don’t embrace it!
The bottom line is that learning equals growth.
If you stop learning, you get left behind, unable to keep up with the continually changing and evolving universe. And from a leadership point of view, that’s dangerous territory.
As a leader, where do you start with learning and the potential consequences of not learning?
I’m going to try to break it down into the main problems – from a leadership point of view – that could happen if you stop learning, and then look at what the benefits of learning for each one would be.
I hope by the end of this podcast you’re all picking up those books, googling information and looking at training opportunities!
So, let’s get to it.
Here are five traps leaders can fall into if they don’t keep their learning current:
1. Keeping Up With Innovation Is Crucial
With the rise in technology and Artificial Intelligence, it’s critical to keep up to date with innovation in the workplace.
Whatever sector you work in, new developments and processes are happening all the time. To keep up to date means having a growth mindset that enables you to embrace change.
This positive way of thinking puts you in a good position to inform your team, allowing them to have the latest information to hand and be able to support the business with their knowledge of up to date technology.
Solutions come quicker to those who already have the knowledge they need to hand, and consequently, fewer mistakes happen.
Remaining agile is crucial to successful leadership -technological change, social change and political change bombard us at every turn. Consequently, learning should be considered an essential rather than a luxury.
I remember a time when the thought of words and voices travelling through the wireless ether was the stuff of science fiction – these days none of us can function without a smarphone!
Technology is moving at such a rate that we’ll soon be in the realms of things we consider fantastical today. If we, as leaders, don’t keep up with change, how can we expect our teams to do so?
2. Keeping Your Brain Sharp
We’ve known for a while that learning keeps the brain sharp and decreases your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
But learning has also been proven to generate new brain cells. Your brain can reorganise itself by forming new connections between brain cells (or neurons) throughout adulthood – and this happens whenever something new is learnt and memorised. How amazing is that!
And did you know that when you become an expert in a specific area, the part of your brain that deals with this type of skill actually grows?
Here’s a great example of how this works;
London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus (that’s in the posterior region of the brain) than London bus drivers.
This is because this particular region of the brain is the area used for acquiring and using the complex spatial information that lets us navigate efficiently!
So, challenging yourself and learning new things are vital components in keeping your brain sharp and focused, enabling you to think innovatively and have the capacity to take on new methods, processes and procedures with ease.
3. Failure Is An Inevitable Part Of Life
To efficiently handle problems when they arise, a leader needs to be able to take responsibility for their actions – and those of their team.
As Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook put it “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
When we try new things, some of them won’t work. It’s just one of those facts of life.
We all fear failure up to a point, but research has found that we actually adapt quite well to failure —once we’ve been willing to take the risk.
Failure is a regular part of life. And by taking a risk you might discover something new.
There’s a classic example of this – Pfizer developed a drug they were hoping to use to treat heart disease. Although the trials failed on that front, they discovered an interesting side effect: participants’ sexual activity increased.
They failed their way into a billion-dollar blockbuster: Viagra!
So, being willing to learn and adapt is crucial to be making you ready to handle problems if and when they occur.
And you might even make an innovative discovery along the way!
4. Empathy Can Be Taught
Learning also helps leaders empathise with their teams.
Taking an interest in the latest breakthroughs in psychology and sociology is essential for leaders who want to know how their teams tick, why they act the way they do, and how to communicate effectively with them.
Dr Helen Riess, an associate clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, has investigated whether empathy can be taught – and discovered that it can.
Additionally, she confirms that learning and development (L&D) professionals can help leaders develop their empathy by encouraging them to get to know their team members’ unique strengths and weaknesses on a deeper level.
Engaging with your employees will lead to an energised team, who want to come to work, and who are all pulling together for the good of the company.
5. Learning Is A Continues Process
Being a leader means recognising that the process of learning never ends.
There’s always something new to be learnt and new insights to be discovered.
Learning happens even when we don’t realise it in everyday life. But setting aside time to actively learn – whether that’s formal classroom-based learning, online skill development or ad hoc in-house training– by choosing to embrace lifelong learning you set an excellent example for your team to follow.
And a team who embraces the acquisition of knowledge will have enhanced understanding, better opportunities and improved quality of life – and not just at work.
So, the bottom line for leaders is that to keep ahead of the competition – to lead from the front, and to provide the motivation and encouragement to your team – you need to keep learning.
I’m wondering how many of you listening to this podcast have had thoughts about improving your own knowledge base with some additional learning?
Have you taken any recent courses you found useful, or read a book that proved inspirational?
I’d love to know. Drop me an email on Rachel.Hewitt-Hall @ excel-communications.com
Till next time!
About Excel Communications
LEARN, GROW, SUCCEED
Excel Communications is a learning and development consultancy based near London in the UK. For more than 30 years we have been collaborating with clients across the globe.
Partnering with Excel empowers you to evolve your people and business, by fuelling a love for learning. We work with you to create unforgettable, customised learning experiences to achieve your vision of success and growth, with tangible results.
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